Saturday, 13th September

This morning we greatly astonished the nun we spoke to yesterday by actually appearing at the 6:20 am Mass, which apparently she had never really believed we would do. We then walked off to supplement the – as usual – scanty breakfast with another serving of yesterday’s ice cream.

After a ridiculously short stage of cycling, Notburga is reclining on her bed in a hotel room five meter from San Orico d’Orcios’ petrol stations. This is due to one long-distance sprint over the last 40-something kilometres. We never left the hospitable Benedictines beforeone 1 o’clock, as it was ‑ raining! The alternation between dark clouds and sunshine gave the (hilly!) landscape between San Gimignano an additional charme, and our trip some additional excitement. Arriving in Siena after four o’clock we had but little time to visit its many attractions and so had to focus on the more important ones: the cathedral (from outside only, because of a long queue at the entrance), the canctuary of St. Catherine, and the relics of St. Catherine in St. Dominic’s (St. Catherine’s head; Moved as I was was, and much as I prayed for you, dear readers, according to our agreement – I still come to the conclusion that while I venerate relics as any Catholic should, I prefer them to be not directly visible.)

When we had left and had bought something to eat, it was 5:40 pm and there were still over 40 kilometres to go. To make matters worse, it was starting to rain again. Not wishing to be again an obstacle to my far more sportive co-pilgrim, I tried to go as fast as I could. On the whole, the calculation was quite good, yet had the distance been any longer or the hills to go up any higher, I probably would have fallen off my bike.

As we hardly had any lunch today, apart from two very small bananas and a bit of dry bread, I managed for the first time to eat in an Italian restaurant, as one is supposed to do, first, prima piatti (pasta), and then seconda piatti (beef with salad in this case) Yet I must stop writing about food and drink, meseems, or else I might leave an entirely wrong impression of our pilgrimage.

We tried to find out when Mass would be tomorrow, but none of the people running the hotel really knew (no cross or religious picture in the room today, either); nor was there any infrommation outside any of the three churches in the city (to which we went to find out). So we shall have the earliest breakfast possible and then rely on providence.